In a rare turn of events, the White Sox pitching staff gave the rest of the club a chance to wait for a break.
Tonight, they caught two of them.
With two outs in the ninth, runners on first and second and a full count, Marcus Semien hit a grounder to short that should have ended the inning. Instead, Xander Bogaerts short-armed the throw. It short-hopped Mike Carp at first, and he couldn't come up with it cleanly. Alexei Ramirez was in motion from second and kept going around third, and he scored with arms extended for the second straight game to bring the evening to a close.
And Carp was only at first because Mike Napoli broke his finger on second base after advancing on a wild pitch in the top of the ninth. The error was completely on Bogaerts, but perhaps Napoli stands a better chance at bailing him out.
Either way, it was a much-needed victory for the pitching staff, which did its job top to bottom.
Erik Johnson set some personal bests tonight -- striking out a career-high nine batters over a career-long 6⅔ innings. He allowed just three hits and two walks, but he left with a no-decision because Daniel Nava crushed one of his few mistakes (a fastball up and over the plate) for a solo shot. Otherwise, his command was pretty much impeccable, and he took advantage of a wide strike zone by Marvin Hudson.
He showed some signs of flagging toward the end, which included A.J. Pierzynski's first walk of the season to put runners on first and second with one out in the seventh. He came back to strike out Ryan Roberts, but with Jackie Bradley Jr. coming to the plate, Robin Ventura put inherited runners in the hands of Scott Downs. That's been a risky proposition up to this point, but Downs struck him out with surprising ease to allow Johnson to put a dent his his ERA.
Downs went on to record the first two outs of the eighth (a righty and a lefty), before yielding to Jake Petricka, who struck out Bogaerts to end the eighth.
The bullpen proved capable of going a second full inning, although it survived some wobbling in the process. After starting the inning with a groundout, Petricka botched an 0-2 count and walked Napoli. Donnie Veal came in to face Nava, and John Farrell countered with Jonny Gomes, Veal still prevailed by striking him out with a foul-tipped curve, but then he blew a lefty-lefty matchup by hitting Pierzynski on the hip with a curve.
With two on (and Dustin Pedroia pinch-running for Napoli), Daniel Webb came in and retired the pinch-hitting Carp with a soft groundout to escape the jam. Every reliever provided relief to the pitcher before him, and Webb ended up with the win to show for it thanks to Ramirez. After Alejandro De Aza's leadoff walk was erased with an unsuccessful attempt to steal second, Ramirez replaced him with a single, moved to second on Adam Eaton's walk, and scored when he didn't stop running.
Up until that point, Adam Dunn provided the only run with a solo shot off good buddy Jake Peavy in the second inning. It could have been two runs, but Jose Abreu was called out on a groundout after another flawed Bogaerts throw appeared to pull Napoli off the bag. It was so apparent that both broadcasting booths agreed Abreu had an infield single ... but it remained "apparent" because the call was somehow upheld.
The Sox made Peavy throw 40 pitches, but thanks to the denied baserunner, Peavy escaped with just one run allowed, and was able to grind his way through six innings, with plenty of self-reflexive profanity to guide him along.
*Ramirez's single kept his season-opening hitting streak alive.
*Adam Dunn was perfect at the plate, drawing three walks after that solo shot.
*Tyler Flowers, on the other hand, sported a golden sombrero for his effort.